Education: Mental Health Services

Department for Education written question – answered on 9th November 2020.

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Photo of Liz Twist Liz Twist Opposition Whip (Commons)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what plans he has to accelerate the roll out of community mental health teams to schools and colleges, and to extend it to universities, as recommended by the Samaritans in their October 2020 report entitled Pushed from pillar to post: Improving the availability and quality of support after self-harm in England.

Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

Supporting and promoting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing is a priority for this government. We continue to work closely with schools, colleges, the higher education sector, and local areas to provide support, guidance, and encourage good practice.

The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) has overall policy responsibility for children and young people’s mental health. The Department for Education works closely with DHSC to take significant steps to support the mental health and wellbeing support for young people across all education settings.

Mental Health Support Teams (MHSTs) are an important part of our long term plan to promote and support children and young people’s mental health in state-funded schools and colleges, and we remain committed to rolling them out to at least a fifth to a quarter of the country by the end of the academic year 2022/23.

There are 59 MHSTs already established in 25 areas across the country. An additional 123 MHSTs are being set up in a further 57 areas this year, and a further 104 teams have been commissioned to begin training in academic year 2020/21. Once established, MHST support schools and colleges to promote good mental health, identify and manage a wide range of issues relating to mental health and wellbeing, and deliver interventions for mild and moderate needs. This may include thoughts of self-harm and providing support with alternative coping strategies.

The NHS Long Term Plan commits to ensure that, by the academic year 2023/24, at least an additional 345,000 children and young people aged 0 to 25 will be able to access support from NHS-funded children and young people’s mental health services (formerly CAMHS) and school–based or college-based mental health support teams. Funding for CYMPHS has grown faster than overall NHS and adult mental health spending.

Every NHS mental health trust in England has provided 24/7 crisis helplines for those in all age groups who need urgent help in a mental health crisis, and will continue to do so over the coming months. We provided funding and support to the people and organisations who play a vital role in young people’s mental health, with over £10 million of funding to support mental health charities, including Young Minds and Place2Be which specifically support the mental health of children and young people. We have invested £8 million in local authorities to fund mental health and wellbeing experts to provide advice and resources for education staff to support and promote children and young people’s mental health.

We recognise that many university students are facing additional mental health challenges due to the disruption and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, and it is important students can still access the mental health support they need.

My right hon. Friend, the Minister of State for Universities, wrote to Vice Chancellors in October outlining that student welfare should remain a priority, and has convened a working group of representatives from the higher education and health sectors to specifically address the current and pressing issues that students are facing during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Higher education providers are expected to continue to support their students. This has included moving services online or making services accessible from a distance and we encourage students to stay in touch with their provider’s student support and welfare teams as these services are likely to continue to be an important source of support. Many providers have bolstered their existing mental health services, and adapted delivery to means other than face to face. Staff at universities and colleges responded quickly to the need to transform mental health and wellbeing services, showing resourcefulness and there are many examples of good practice.

The Office for Students funded Student Space platform bridges gaps in support for students arising from this unprecedented situation and is designed to work alongside existing services. Students struggling with their mental health at this time can also access support via the NHS at: https://www.nhs.uk/apps-library/category/mental-health/.

Online resources from Public Health England can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-the-public-on-mental-health-and-wellbeing, along with support from mental health charity, Mind, available here: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/student-life/about-student-mental-health/.

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